Tuesday, 3 May 2016

No special consideration for states owing salaries – Labour




Organised labour will not give special considerations to 26 states that are currently having difficulties paying the present wage in negotiating the new minimum wage, the two labour organisations in the country – the  Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade  Union Congress – which gave this indication on Monday,  insisted that all the state governments should be able to pay the proposed national minimum wage.
The President of the TUC and the General Secretary of the NLC, Mr Bala Kaigama and Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson respectively, believed that the 26 state governors had problems paying the current minimum wage because of mismanagement of resources and their failure to take advantage of resources in their states.
The labour leaders spoke during separate telephone interviews with A Nigerian NewsPaper Site The PUNCH on Monday.
A newspaper had, on Sunday, reported that 26 states, including Ekiti, Kwara, Kaduna, Osun, Plateau, Ondo, Abia, Bayelsa, Oyo, Imo, Kogi and Benue states, owed workers’ salaries.
Ozo-Eson said any agreement on a new minimum wage would be implemented without exception as the issue was beyond the public sector.
The NLC’s secretary stated that the minimum wage law would be enforced without waivers whether in the private or public sector.
He stressed that if the states owing salaries did what was expected of them, they should be able to pay the outcome of the tripartite deliberations.
He urged the states to intensify efforts to generate revenue internally.
Ozo-Eson stated, “Once there is an agreement on the new minimum wage, it is applicable to all employers. It is not a public sector or government matter; it is all employers of labour who employ a given number of workers.
“All those are contained in the law. Under the present circumstance, any employer that employs 25 or more is bound by the law; so, whether in the private or in the public sector, there are no waivers.
“So if they do the right things, they should be able to pay. And they should also make effort to generate revenue internally because in many of these states, it is either they contract out the revenue generation and people collect and just pocket and therefore the states have very little IGR.”
He added, “The current minimum wage is not the reason that they cannot pay. Those who are not paying have not set their priorities right, they have not managed their affairs properly, and that is why they are not paying.
“It is not because of the existing reality that those states are not able to pay. It is because they have mismanaged their affairs in a way that they are not leaving up to their responsibilities and I think that is what needs to be emphasised.”
He said with the new proposal of N56,000 made by organised labour, the President was expected to convene a tripartite committee of government, employers and labour representatives to discuss the various issues relating to the economy, the ability of employers to pay and others.
Ozo-Eson stated that organised labour had not received any response from the government since the new wage proposal was made on April 27, 2016.
He said, “The demand has been made. The process that is needed is for the tripartite committee to be convened and all indices, including indices relating to the economy and ability to pay by employers. All these will influence what is agreed upon by the tripartite committee and that is where we are.”
He argued that the proposed minimum wage was one of the things to be done to prevent the economy from sliding into recession through increase in the purchasing power of the workers.
On his part, the TUC president, Kaigama, said some states were not able to pay the present minimum wage due to the twin problem of mismanagement and laziness.
He believed that the governor had failed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by agriculture and solid minerals, and had been depending solely on revenue allocations from oil.
Kaigama stated that it was the position of labour that the states had the capacity to pay what would be decided as the new minimum wage after discussions.
He stressed that if the Federal Government refused to discuss the proposed minimum wage issue, organised labour would be forced to resort to self-help.
The TUC boss added that an increase in the salaries of workers would cushion inflation rather than worsening it as inflation was already over 12 points.
He said, “It is feasible. It is mismanagement that is affecting them, the states have money. They depend solely on oil when they have agriculture.  We have solid minerals in all states and they are not prepared to develop them. So they are just lazy.
“First, let the figure be agreed on.  You know it is something that we have not agreed on. You know, it is our own proposal.  It would have to go through tripartism; in tripartism, it is give and take, so all the sides will sit and consider it; we defend our position, they defend their position. But our position is that they are capable.  It is doable. The resources are there. It is only that we are mismanaging them.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government will not unilaterally decide on the N56,000 minimum wage proposed by labour.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, gave this indication in an interview with Channels Television monitored in Abuja on Sunday night.
He acknowledged the receipt of the letter written by labour on the proposed minimum wage, saying the decision on it would be taken by a tripartite committee.
“We are going to do the needful. I am happy that they even said in their letter that it is going to be a tripartite discussion involving the federal, state, and local  governments  on one side; the organised private sector and unions represented by the NLC and the TUC.
“We will review. That is what the law says. The review will bring in holistically all factors that are prevailing now.  All variables will be put on the table,” Ngige stated.
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